Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chikpet and development

We got an early start for our walking tour of Chikpet, Bangalore, known as "old Bangalore." We walked through the city, admiring both the modern street shops as well as historic buildings nestled in-between, and ended the tour at the remains of Fort Bangalore.
We got an early start for our walking tour of Chikpet, Bangalore, known as "old Bangalore."

Mornings have been pretty amusing for those of us who are not daily coffee drinkers, since it has been a struggle for people to find strong coffee. Indians drink coffee, but it is diluted with large amounts milk and sugar. We have gotten some very odd looks trying to order black coffee, and some waiters have made comments saying that we were asking for only the ingredients of coffee. Many in our group would probably not be opposed to eating coffee grounds just to get a caffeine boost during those early mornings.

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We met our tour guide on a busy street corner at the border of what used to be old Bangalore. Aliyeh, who works for an organization called Native Place, gives tours of the area in an attempt to remind people of the rich history behind the city. In an expanding area known as the "IT capitol," it is easy to forget the somewhat humble beginnings as a mud fort.

Aliyeh began by asking us to look down a very modern street but imagine a wooden gate, which marked one of the entrances to Bangalore in the 1500s. We then proceeded to walk through Chikpet, admiring both the modern street shops as well as historic buildings nestled in-between.

Aliyeh continued sharing historical context for each area as we proceeded from the "Kemp Gowda era" in the 1500s (Kemp Gowda is known as the founder of the city) to the 1800s and the beginning of the era of British control.

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We walked through K.R. Market and ended the tour at the remains of Fort Bangalore, where a length of walls and one of the gates still stand. This is where the British troops finally broke through the walls and captured the city in 1799.

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While the area that historical Bangalore once occupied is quite small compared to the current footprint, the concepts can be seen everywhere.

Bangalore is certainly not the only city in the world that struggles to balance progress and expansion with retaining its cultural identity, but it faces this dilemma at a huge scale because of the pace at which it has grown.

The population of Bangalore doubled in a single decade (1971-1981), a crazy feat to consider. In addition to the population growth rate and current population of 9.6 million (based on the 2011 census), most of this new growth is focused around computers and technology, making the divide between mud forts and glass technology campuses even more striking.

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